Africa ‘one step closer’: AU report

17 July 2006

African countries are moving towards attaining their shared goals for the continent, according to the report on the outcomes of the 7th African Union Summit held in Banjul, Gambia earlier this month.

The report found that “some progress toward improving human development was made during the past year, but [that] the challenges remain enormous,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sue van der Merwe said in Pretoria on Friday.

Briefing heads of diplomatic missions in South Africa on the outcomes of the summit in Pretoria on Friday, Van der Merwe noted that Africa’s economy – according to the World Bank’s 205 report – grew by 4.4% in 2004, with virtually all countries reporting positive growth.

The region was projected to grow by 4.1% in 2005 as the benefits of past reforms and a more peaceful environment continued to translate into expanded economic activity.

At the same time, Van der Merwe said, the African Union (AU) summit report was cautious to point out that “the region [still] faces serious challenges. More than 314 million Africans live on less than US$1 a day – nearly twice as many as in 1981.

“The continent is home to 34 of the world’s 48 poorest countries and 24 of the 32 countries ranked lowest in human development. The HIV/Aids pandemic costs Africa 1 percentage point of per capita growth a year, while malaria kills about 2 800 Africans a day.”

The Deputy Minister said these findings are consistent with the common positions that African countries have adopted in seeking to remove the impediments to developments while at the same time ensuring they stayed on track to realise the Millennium Development Goals.

Fighting hunger
The report recommends strengthening the capacity of the AU Commission, Nepad, and the continent’s regional economic communities to improve co-ordination of initiatives in food and nutrition security.

Member countries are also urged to develop early warning systems for food security, to build intra- and inter-regional trade in food, and to speed up implementation of the Maputo Declaration on allocating 10% of their national budgets to agriculture.

Regional economic communities
The AU summit highlighted the importance of regional economic communities in consolidating Africa’s agenda – while warning against the proliferation of such structures.

The summit accepted the recommendations of the first conference of African ministers in charge of integration, suspending recognition of new regional economic communities while recognising the following eight existing bodies:

  • Economic Community of West African States
  • Common Market of East and Southern Africa
  • Southern African Development Community
  • Inter-Governmental Authority for Development
  • Arab Maghreb Union
  • Economic Community of Sahelo-Saharian States
  • East African Community
  • Economic Community of Central African States

The regional economic communities were urged to co-ordinate their policies in order to help accelerate integration.

Ending conflicts
The AU summit commended the Comoros for its reconciliation process, Mauritania for its constitutional referendum of 25 June, and Sudan for the signing of the Darfur Peace Agreement in Abuja on 5 May as well as progress made in implementing the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in Southern Sudan.

It also expressed satisfaction with Burundi’s signing of the Dar-Es-Salaam Principles of Agreement on 18 June, and with progress made in Ivory Coast, despite the delay in the implementation of the roadmap adopted by the Ivorian government in February.

At the same time, the AU expressed great concern that increased instability in Somalia would have far-reaching consequences on the peace process in that country and the stability of the region as a whole.

The summit confirmed its full support for the transitional federal institutions of Somalia, particularly the country’s transitional federal government, appealed to all parties to follow the path of dialogue, and welcomed the preliminary agreement reached between the transitional government and the Union of Islamic Courts under the auspices of the League of Arab States.

United Nations reform
UN reform remained a priority for the AU, Van der Merwe said, noting that the outcomes of the 60th UN General Assembly were “a disappointment to many of us”.

On that occasion the world’s mostly developing countries were denied representation on the UN Security Council, despite years of negotiations.

“We will however consistently assert the importance of multilateralism and the urgent need to revitalise and reform the UN,” the deputy minister said. “We will also consistently call for more equitable representation of Africa and other developing regions and for the adoption of more just and transparent rules and procedures.”

The AU summit also re-endorsed the Ezulwini Consensus, which proposes two permanent and five non-permanent seats for Africa in a reformed UN Security Council, as well as strengthening the UN General Assembly to “enable it to fully play its role as the most representative and democratic organ of the United Nations system and world parliament.”

At the same time, the AU was encouraged by the establishment of the United Nations’ Human Rights Council and the Peace Building Commission. Africa was allocated 13 seats in the former and seven in the latter.

2010 World Cup
The deputy minister also touched on the 2010 Fifa World Cup to be hosted by South Africa.

“There has been a lot of speculation about our state of readiness,” Van der Merwe said. “Let me assure you that we are quite ready and the continent is behind us. The summit endorsed South Africa as the host for the 2010 World Cup and declared their support for this endeavour.”

The AU has declared 2007 the Year of Football in Africa, and invited Fifa president Sepp Blatter to address its next summit in January. reporter and BuaNews

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